Odense

Odense Photo Triennial

 

In 2000 Museet for Fotokunst in cooperation with the municipality of Odense took the initiative to start a festival of its own. For years I had attended other festivals, in France, in Spain, in Mexico, in the Netherlands, but especially important friendships with the initiating couple of the Houston Fotofest, Fred Baldwin and Wendy Watriss, had inspired to give Denmark its own event of that kind. “Slowness” was chosen as the provocative opening theme. Some twenty exhibitions presented a variety of original photography from cultural backgrounds as diverse as White Russia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Korea, Mali, and South Africa.

A democratic society bases its continued existence on constant self-scrutiny. The idea behind the choice of the festival theme for 2003, “Group View”, tended in the same direction – to examine what becomes of ideas of solidarity and community in a super-individualistic age. The daily visual bombardment from advertising, TV and lifestyle magazines makes one feel placed in a world of ego-trippers who plan their careers with the precision and relentlessness of a welder’s blowtorch. The path ahead has a very narrow margin of deviation. “Do you want security?” asks Zygmunt Bauman; then “give up your freedom […] Do you want this feeling of home comfort? Set up an alarm at your front door and install security cameras in your entranceway”.

 

(Translated from Zygmunt Bauman: Fællesskab. En søgen efter tryghed i en usikker verden, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2002)

 

When Museet for Fotokunst received the catalogue Me/We from the Finn Tuomo Manninen, the project was all ready; this was a man who dared invite us to a future where the collectivity has a role to play, where the group quite literally filled the view. In social psychology the group is defined as “two or more individuals who for a period deliberately interact verbally or non-verbally”. The festival title expands this definition with a wry smile, distances itself from the scientific approach and makes the group a matter for the visual artist. In Tuomo Manninen’s razor-sharp, well-lit group tableaux the figures are ostensibly linked by a collectivity of occupations or interests. But are they? The viewers will react differently. It looks like harmony. But some will take the ironic view and read them rather as a last desperate Utopian attempt of the denizens of the Nordic welfare model to ‘be there for one another’. And that was exactly the point: that the many exhibitions and the many artists were expected to offer so many versions of the eternal conflict between individual and group. The choice of narrative mode – colour or black-and-white, large or small formats, snapshots or long exposures – presented a range of approaches that were expected to qualify the description of the theme and make the Triennial a whole little voyage of exploration in the iconographic universe of the group.

In recent months the planning of the third version – OFT 2006 – has been started, and we expect the theme to be a match for the previous ones in terms of popular appeal, aesthetic sophistication and political impact. It is called “Food”. Food fills a lot of space in our everyday life as well as our rituals. It fills our bellies too, and when we ingest more calories than we burn, we get fat. The absence of food provides the contrast, either as the ailment anorexia or as the hunger of poverty. Or the precise balancing of the good raw materials provides gastronomy related to art or spirituality. E-mail mff@brandts.dk welcome relevant material as CD or ordinary mail up to October 2005.

 

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